After decades of disruption, many local streams are being engineered to encourage the return of spawning salmon. A key element is volunteer time and effort, coupled with municipal support. In West Vancouver, one of their 22 streams was enhanced at the foot of 19th St. Learn how volunteers and the city collaborated, making McDonald Creek more welcoming to salmon species heading upstream.
A new rocky berm has given a West Vancouver creek a better connection to high tide ocean water and salmon are expected to benefit.
“The idea behind this project was to create 80 metres of new streambed,” explains John Barker, president of the West Vancouver Streamkeeper Society. “To build it took 200 truckloads of material. We had 2 large excavators here creating it. They had to excavate down (and then) they lined it with fabric liner. They put material on it so we don’t lose our stream into the deeper rock.”
Over time, the seawall and urban development altered the natural shoreline so that creek water fanned out from the culvert, making it too shallow for migrating salmon to access on all but the highest of tides, which occur only about once every two weeks.
“Before, the stream emptied out over a sill, it was just braided out to the ocean. There was no stream bed or defined path,” says Barker. “As they mill around waiting for that 2 weeks, seals will target them, we have river otters in the area. And of course there is the sports fishery as well.”
During heavy rains, this rocky trench will channel the stream water so that it meets up with each day’s high tide, and salmon can easily enter. Barker believes even a small change in the spawning numbers will be a big achievement.
“They are going to come straight in the creek and head up. If we could get 20 to 30 pairs of salmon, that would be considered a huge success.”
The stream bed improvements were a collaborative effort. Sandra Bicego Manager, Environment and Sustainability for the District of West Vancouver explains.
“The district’s role was to coordinate the project. The Streamkeepers did all the hard work to fundraise and organize funding for the project. We hired the tradesfolks, the coordinator and marine biologist to do the design work, and the coastal engineer, and got the trucks organized. ”
The stream bed project grew out of another stewardship group’s effort which focused on protecting the shoreline with rocks and boulders.
“This is a perfect example of stewardship groups coming together and working in collaboration with the district,” says John Barker.
“There isn’t a plan or project that doesn’t take place without working in collaboration with community groups,” adds Bicego.
As the two survey the new and improved McDonald Creek, their pride in the outcome is evident.
“Within the province, it is an icon,” says Barker. “It is delightful to think that so many people think about salmon.”